The empty lecture hall is just one sign of redesign in higher education. Substituting digital formats for large live lectures is the simplest and earliest stage of higher education redesign. This process of substituting synthetic for real will take several years and there will be many failed experiments. Whether in the mega courses offered by Coursera and their ilk, or the burgeoning number of asynchronous on-line offerings of traditional institutions, the availability of higher education is rapidly expanding beyond the traditional constraints of geography and time. Almost all of the expansion is digital.
The good news is that most of these new digital forms are no worse – and are often better – than the large traditional lecture hall formats. Most would agree that expanded access to higher education is a good thing for most of the planet’s population. Daphne Koller considers it to be inappropriate to compare Coursera’s offerings [and other digital products] to face-to-face interaction with the best faculty members. The only fair comparison is access versus no access. Continue reading